Robert is a composer living in Boston, MA. He co-founded the Sleeping Giant composer collective and co-directs the Times Two Series. Send me emails at rhonstein@gmail.com !

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Events Calendar

  • Mo 1.22.18: SH @ Seattle
  • Tu 1.23.18: SH @ Portland
  • Th 2.8.18: SH @ TSU
  • Th 2.22.18: Ash @ Strathmore
  • Mo 2.26.18: TIC @ MEE
  • We 2.28.18: Conduit @ Boston
  • Sa 3.3.18: MG @ MFA
  • Mo 3.5.18: TIC @ MEE
  • Sa 3.24.18: Hymning @ VU
  • Mo 3.26.18: SH @ Cleveland
  • We 3.28.18: SH @ Elyria
  • Th 3.29.18: SH @ U.Michigan
  • Su 4.8.18: Patter @ UNCG
  • Th 4.12.18: Timor @ Shift
  • Th 4.12.18: 3ANM @ Portland
Click here to see past events.

The Sun Speckled Climbing Up

Chamber Orchestra (1111.2 sax.111.perc.pno.11111) and Two Sopranos – 12 minutes

sun speckled

The Sun Speckled Climbing Up takes its inspiration from Book of Hours, an artist book stitched on tissue paper by Laura Grey. Loosely following the structure of a medieval book of hours, the project reimagines the ancient prayerbook as a large, hand-stitched, table- sized book. Several texts from various sources are collaged together, creating a narrative that references the structure of the original, while offering a contemporary perspective on the practice of daily devotion. The Sun Speckled Climbing Up is a musical setting of one section from Book of Hours featuring fragments from Rainer Maria Rilke’s own Book of Hours collection. Accompanying the music are video projections created by Hannah Wasileski and Laura Grey comprised of slow moving close up footage of the hand stitched, tissue paper book. The Rilke text speaks of gaping emotional chasms, yearning, and desire. This sentiment finds its way into the music, fueling the piece’s angular vocal lines and churning ensemble rhythms. This piece was commissioned by the Albany (NY) Symphony Orchestra.

For rental information please click here

premiered 06.10.16 at EMPAC, Troy, NY, by the Dogs of Desire, David Alan Miller Conductor

Book of Hours

SATB + Chamber Orchestra (Fl., Cl., Hrn., Tbn., Perc., Pno., Strings) – 25 minutes


Book of Hours takes its inspiration from an artist book stitched on tissue paper by Laura Grey. Loosely following the structure of a medieval book of hours, the project reimagines the ancient prayerbook as a large, hand-stitched, table-sized book. Several texts from various sources are collaged together, creating a narrative that references the structure of the original, while offering a contemporary perspective on the practice of daily devotion.

Often when looking inward we encounter a volatile and turbulent space: memories, worries, cares, visions, and dreams clash with wide-ranging emotions of sometimes great intensity. Book of Hours enters this space. Wistful childhood memories lead to a joyful outburst of song in the first movement, Now now now now. A quiet meditation on time in the second movement, A thin layer of time, is rudely interrupted by the angry outburst of Why had we even bothered? followed by a short instrumental interlude of equally violent intensity. In Alone on a roof a sense of deep loneliness dissolves into the final movement, Timor Mortis. A layering of text from Shakespeare’s Macbeth and a fragment from the Catholic Office of the Dead, Timor Mortis concludes the work with a quiet prayer, gently accepting fear in the face of an uncertain future and unpredictable fate.

To inquire about rentals and performance materials click here

This piece was commissioned by the Present Music Commission Club for its landmark 35th season. Milwaukee, WI, USA, www.presentmusic.org, 2016. 


Orchestra (2222.2210.timp.strings) – 7 minutes


‘Man in Hot Pot’ from ‘Hot Water Suites’ by Roni Horn

Rise is a brief orchestral essay on moving upward. The music is one extended ramp, an awakening followed by a brief fall, landing somewhere different then where it began. It is also a  meditation on the idea of the pastoral. From Vivaldi to Strauss, there is a long tradition of evoking the pastoral landscape in symphonic music. What does it mean to romanticize nature in the post-industrial, climate-changing 21st century? Perhaps this explains the somewhat haunting mood of the piece. There is a celebration of the natural world, but also an unsettled feeling that never resolves.

This excerpt is a recording by the American Composers Orchestra from their 23rd annual Underwood New Music Readings, part of the New York Philharmonic’s inaugural biennial. George Manahan conducts.

For information on renting Rise please click here

‘Rise’ comes from material used in ‘Four Midwinter Interludes’ which was premiered 2.10.13 at Mount Holyoke College, South Hadley, MA

Four Midwinter Interludes

Orchestra (2222.2210.timp.strings) – 20 minutes

Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream has been set to music many times. Composers, including Purcell, Mendelssohn and Britten, have thoroughly explored the rich dramatic and symbolic world of Shakespeare’s play. My interludes make no attempt at retelling the play’s action but instead comment on background elements: thematic ideas that lurk beneath the surface but are not themselves characters in the conventional sense.

My choosen subjects – the forest, the night, the moon, and the magic flower – play a silent but crucial role throughout the play: the night and forest providing a time and place for the main action, the moon silently watching over, and the flower acting as the primary agent of change, mischief and transformation.

The interludes are specifically meant to accompany Mendelssohn’s incidental music. Inserted into the Mendelssohn, the interludes comment on both Shakespeare’s world and Mendelssohn’s music. Drawing from a broad palette of extended techniques and conventional orchestral writing, my interludes mingle original material with transformed fragments from the Mendelssohn, injecting these disparate shards into evocative textures of unusual sounds and noises.

The work has yet to be recorded, but you can listen to demos of each movement.

For the first movement, The Forest, I borrowed a small fragment of accompanimental figuration from the Overture. The figure appears throughout The Forest as a kind of distorted echo of the original.

For the second movement, The Moon, I time stretched the first 12 bars of the Scherzo. The sound file is played back on a portable mp3 player (iphone or ipod, for example) by every member of the orchestra. The effect is a massive surround sound haze of slowly changing harmony, the original scherzo barely recognizable.

As the demo suggests, The Flower, jump cuts between various movements of the Mendelssohn. I recreated the effect for this demo by using an actual recording of the work.

The Night borrows a melancholy flute tune found in one of Mendelssohn’s melodramas, the music that accompanies stage action, and takes it in a different direction.

Premiered 2.10.13 at Mount Holyoke College, South Hadley, MA

Night Scenes from the Ospedale

strings + harpsichord – 20 minutes

One of my most exciting projects of 2011 was a collaboration with The Sebastians on something we called the Vivaldi Project. Our goal was to produce a show that seamlessly interwove early and new music. 2011 happened to be the 300th anniversary of Vivaldi’s seminal work L’Estro Armonico, so we decided to create a set around these concerti. For my part I wrote a collection of interludes to go between the Vivaldi. While writing, I focused on a particularly interesting fact of Vivaldi’s career, his tenure as Music director at the famous Ospedale della Pieta, an orphanage for girls that specialized in musical training. Most of Vivaldi’s concerti, and almost certainly all of L’Estro, were written and performed at the Ospedale. I found this scenario irresistible and decided my interludes would be about the Ospedale, in particular the Ospedale at night time. I wanted to imagine the sound and feeling of the Ospedale after everyone was asleep and the day’s music had stopped.

We got a nice grant to support the development and presentation of the project and with the help of said grant we created a swanky blog. Check it out for posts about some of the string techniques I use, detailed thoughts on the concept, and audio of the piece as I wrote it.

At the premiere performance it was thrilling to hear my pieces back-to-back with the Vivaldi. I was unprepared for just how cool it felt to move from the introspective, atmospheric interludes to the brilliant, extroverted Vivaldi pieces. Maybe it was because I knew what was coming, but those few seconds of silence between an interlude and a Vivaldi were thick with tension and wonderful expectation.  To give you a small taste of this juxtaposition I’ve posted recordings of a few interludes followed by the first 30 seconds or so of the subsequent Vivaldi concerti. All recordings are from the premiere.

Barcarolle into A minor Concerto

This interlude features the Viola.  A Barcarolle is a boat song, but my piece isn’t a song so much as music suggesting the possibility of a song.

Lamento into G Major Concerto

This interlude features cello. The music is spare, plaintive and atmospheric. Perhaps it is one of the girls alone, pleading or in prayer. You’ll hear the cello pizzicato throughout. In the backgruond a slow, sliding violin melody passes over a flickering and fragile drone. A voice of strange noises emerges in dialogue with the cello as the music intensifies.

Notturno into B Minor Concerto

Notturno features Harpsichord and Double Bass. It is late night and a teacher plays quietly somewhere in the Ospedale. We continue to hear the nocturnal noises from the Barcarolle. Voices float in and out of the music, perhaps it is the sound of the harpsichordist humming along as he plays.

To purchase a score and part set please click here

premiered 12.17.11 by Quodlibet, Spring Glen Church, Hamden, CT.


This is Not Mother Nature

Orchestra (2222.2200.3 perc.hrp.pno.strings) – 10 minutes

USDA Photo of Missouri River Flooding 2011

USDA Photo of Missouri River Flooding 2011

Early in the summer of 2011 I visited Westport, New York, a small town on the shores of Lake Champlain. Due to record snow fall and an unusually rainy spring, the lake had risen to a height not seen for generations. The result was the destruction and flooding of many homes and businesses along the lake. Rather than hiking and swimming I spent the weekend tearing down rotten, mold-filled walls of a friend’s lakeside restaurant, helping them get back on their feet after weeks of being closed.

In July I travelled to Nebraska City, Nebraska for a month long residency at the Kimmel Harding Nelson Center. I was stunned during my approach to Omaha’s airport when I saw the crested Missouri river stretching for miles in all directions. The submerged buildings, the interstate’s giant clover interchanges poking through muddy water, and the rows of sandbags surrounding the tarmac, barely holding back the surging river from the airfield, were surreal.

Floods, unlike other natural disasters, do not simply end. They linger for months at a time. The water slowly recedes as helpless residents patiently wait to see what is left of their property. These disasters are both natural and man- made. The Missouri River flood, however, was significantly more man-made than not. Like upstate New York, the winter in Nebraska brought record snowfall. Melting snow combined with heavy spring rains led to overfilled reservoirs. Responding to the crisis the Army Corps of Engineers began a series of planned releases, initiating the massive downstream flooding. I came across a youtube video of an Iowan farmer flying above his land, surveying what was left of his submerged crops. He repeated to the camera, “This is not mother nature…This is not mother nature.”

This piece was commissioned by Hunter College for Reuben Blundell and the Hunter Symphony. I am also greatful to the Kimmel Harding Nelson Center and the I-Park Foundation for providing the time and space to create this work. This work was premiered at a March 2012 performance. Check out this recording by the Woodstock Chamber Orchestra, conducted by Nathan Madsen:

For information on renting a complete part set please click here

Premiered 3.21.12 at Hunter College, New York, NY.


Full Orchestra + Solo Clarinet in Bb (2222.4331.timp+2 perc.hrp.pno.strings) – 9 minutes

lake photo

I spent most of my summer living on Lake Champlain in upstate New York. I had just finished graduate school and moved out of my New Haven apartment with only the haziest plans for moving to Brooklyn in the fall. Future work and apartment, however, remained unknown. The beauty and calm of my lakeside life was in direct opposition to the uncertainty of my future and the stress of being in transition from student to non-student life. The tension between these two extremes found its way into my piece. Both the lapping of the waves and the sense of being on the verge of some unknown change can be heard throughout. The music begins with a simple undulating motive and approaches successive climaxes always cutting short before any kind of resolution. Finally, we are left in a new but equally unresolved place going somewhere but never quite arriving.

This piece was commissioned by the New York Youth Symphony through their First Music commissioning program and was premiered on 12.5.10 at Carnegie Hall by Ryan McAdams and the New York Youth Symphony with Anthony McGill as soloist. The recording below is from a preview performance at Queens College.


For information on renting a complete part set please click here

Premiered 12.5.10 at Carnegie Hall, New York, NY.


New York Times, 12.8.10

200 OK

Full Orchestra (3333.4331.timp+3.hrp.pno.strings) – 8 minutes

Chamber Orchestra (2222.2221.timp+3.hrp.pno.strings)


The Yale Philharmonia rehearsing 200 OK in Woolsey


Servers are the twenty-first century utility. Hidden in warehouses, underground, and other discreet locations around the world, countless computers hold the physical record of our data. The Internet behemoths—Microsoft, Google, Amazon, Facebook—rely on these machines to power their information empires. The rest of us rely on these servers to preserve our collective digital memories. I began this piece specifically interested in how my computer talks to the body of computers storing what we call the Internet. I quickly learned there is a precise set of rules and procedures governing this type of user/server communication. These are called Hyper-Text Transfer Protocol (HTTP), otherwise known as the ‘http’ that precedes many web addresses. According to HTTP, whenever we open a web browser our computer communicates with a server through a series of simple messages. Upon receiving our request, the server acknowledges the query with the message ‘200 OK.’  The connection has been established and data will be transmitted.

The recording is of the premiere featuring the Yale Philharmonia under the direction of Farkhad Khudyev.

check out the score!

For information on renting a complete part set please click here

Premiered 12.11.09 at Woolsey Hall, New Haven, CT.


Night Mixes

Chamber Orchestra (1111.111.perc.pno.strings) – 7 minutes

Night mixes is a short essay on the ebb and flow of small rhythmic phrases accompanying the arching contours of a long lyrical line.  The title, Night Mixes, refers to both the nocturnal mood evoked by the music and the formal idea of repeated iterations of the same melody, each time slightly recomposed and slightly altered by the slowly changing accompaniment underneath.

This recording is the Bard Composer-Conductor Institute orchestra, Marcus Parris, Conductor.

check out the score!

For information on renting a complete part set please click here

Premiered 8.05 by the 2005 Bard Composer-Conductor Institute, Marcus Parris, conductor